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Saturday, September 10, 2016

The lawsuit just filed on behalf of the receivership schools



Wendy Lecker, one of the attorneys from the Education Law Center who sued the State Division of the Budget and the State Education Education last week for denying funds to struggling schools on behalf of parents, wrote this summary of the case below.  Three of the schools are in NYC as explained below.  More on how these schools intended to use these funds are here.  Here is the verified petition.

Attorney Wendy Lecker
On September 2, parents from Albany, Yonkers and New York City filed a lawsuit against the state seeking the release of receivership grant money that the Division of Budget is withholding from their children’s schools, as well as six other schools across the state.  

In 2015, New York State passed Education law 211-f, known as the Receivership Law, which directed the Commissioner of Education to designate New York public schools as “persistently failing” based on test scores and other outcome data. Appropriations legislation also passed in 2015 directed that these “persistently failing” schools were eligible to receive $75 million in funding for two-year grants.

The appropriations law mandated that the State Education Department (“SED”) develop an expenditure plan for these “transformation grants,”  that the Division of Budget (“DOB”) approve that expenditure plan, and that DOB then release the grant money pursuant to that spending plan.  


SED developed the plan in October 2015, and it was approved by DOB on October 15, 2015. The plan specifically provided for two-year grants for twenty schools, including the schools at issue in this lawsuit: Roosevelt High School, in Yonkers, William S. Hackett Middle School, in Albany, and JHS 80 The Mosholu Parkway Middle School in the Bronx. The plan also set forth the amount each school would receive over the two years.  All twenty schools applied for and received the two-year grants set forth in the spending plan. Nothing in either the spending plan nor in the applications indicated that these schools would forfeit the second year of their grants should their performance improve.

The three schools used these grants to provide mental health services and other social supports to students, extra academic support and enrichment, and professional development- all designed to improve student learning conditions and performance.

In February 2016, Commissioner Elia determined, based on student outcome data, that nine of the twenty schools were no longer considered “persistently failing.”  SED declared in February 2016 that the nine schools removed from the “persistently failing” list  “will continue to be eligible to receive funding in 2016-17 from a state grant to support and strengthen their school improvement efforts.”

However, Governor Cuomo directed the Division of Budget to withhold the second year of grant funding from these nine schools, in direct violation of the law and the statutorily-mandated spending plan approved by the DOB.

In addition to Roosevelt, Hackett and JHS 80, the six other schools affected by the DOB’s decision to withhold the grant funding are: Grant Middle School in Syracuse; three schools in Buffalo including the Elementary School of Technology, Burgard Vocational High School, and South Park High School; and Automotive High School and PS 328 Phyllis Wheatley School in Brooklyn.

Parents are outraged that Governor Cuomo is punishing these schools for improving by taking away the very resources that will help them continue to improve. 

SED continues to maintain that the transformational grant funding should be released. SED spokesperson Emily DeSantis, was quoted in the New York Times as declaring: “It makes no sense to take away funding from schools that have just started to show progress and that need all the support and resources we can give them.”

The parties are due in State Supreme Court in Albany on September 23, at 9 a.m.

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